Monday, June 17, 2019

Riding in A Convertible

                                                 Riding in A Convertible
    By Valerie L. Egar

            I'd begged for a ride in Uncle Crick’s convertible since I was a little kid. “Not yet, Gina,” he’d say, looking at Mom.  If I turned quickly, I’d catch her shaking her head ‘no.’ I didn’t understand why.
“It’s like the rides at the amusement park,” Mom said. “You have to be big enough.”
“How big?” I asked. I wanted to hear a height, weight or age like I endured with car seats and the rides I wanted to try at the amusement park.
“When I say you are.” 
I knew better than to argue, but I didn’t want to have grey hair before she said yes. A ride in a car with its top down might not sound like much, but if you saw Uncle Crick’s car, you’d want a ride, too. It’s candy apple red, with two black leather seats in front that almost wrap around you. I call it a movie star car, even though Uncle Crick isn’t a movie star.

The summer I turned 12, Mom finally said yes. “You need to tie your hair back,” she said. “You don’t want it blowing all around and getting in your face.”
I pulled my hair into a ponytail.
“Sunscreen.” Mom handed me the bottle. I was so excited, I poured too much out.
“That’s OK.” Mom dipped the tip of her fingers into the lotion and dabbed some on the tops of my ears. She handed  me a pair of sunglasses. “I think you’re ready.”
I sat next to Uncle Crick and buckled my seat belt. He let me choose the radio station. Hard decision. I chose classic rock because we both like it.
He started the car, pulled out onto the road and shifted gears. I felt air cool my face, like when I ride my bicycle, only stronger. I was glad my hair was tied back because it was blowing.
I shut my eyes and took a deep breath. New mown grass. Some kind of flower. The air smelled wonderful.
“I think dogs would like convertibles.”
Uncle Crick laughed. “Why is that?”
“Because they could smell everything.”
“Sometimes that’s not so good,” Uncle Crick said as we passed a factory.
When we drove through Maple Vale, Uncle Crick drove through town slowly and I waved to people on the street. Everybody waved back. A few yelled, “Cool car!”
I saw a Dairy Delight up ahead. “Mmmm, I smell ice cream.”
“What an amazing nose you have! Tell me what flavor you smell,” Uncle Crick teased.
“Peanut butter ripple, with chocolate sprinkles.”
Uncle Crick sniffed the air.  “Mmm.  I think I smell black raspberry.” He pulled the car into the parking lot.
Soon we were seated at a picnic table with cones.

 “So, you like riding in my car?”
“Yup,” I said between slurps. I rubbed my nose which felt a little burned, even with the sun screen.
“Uh oh.” Uncle Crick looked at the sky. Black rain clouds loomed overhead. “Better get the top up.”
He handed me his cone and ran for the car, but it was too late. The sky opened and rain poured into the open car. Uncle Crick pulled out a roll of paper towels from his console. “I learned to carry these a long time ago.”
No matter how much water we wiped up, the back of my pants still got wet when I sat down.
I didn’t mind though. I loved riding in his car. I’d felt the wind on my face, rustling my hair. I was outside, where I love to be, in the sunshine (mostly), zooming through the countryside. There was only one more thing I wanted.
“Can we go for a drive some night?” I asked.
Uncle Crick raised his eyebrows.
“I want the top down to look at the stars.”

“Ah,” he said. “At night, there’s nothing better. Wait until you look up and  see the Milky Way.”

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Copyright 2019 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied, reproduced or distributed without permission from the author.
Published Biddeford Journal Tribune (Biddeford, ME) May 18, 2019.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Best Friends Forever

                                                        Best Friends Forever
                                                            By Valerie L. Egar

            The magic started when Lily found a green bottle almost covered in sand at the edge of the water. Ocean waves kissed it and receded, then kissed it again. “What’s this?”
            Lily picked up the bottle and saw it was sealed, its golden cap screwed on tightly. Holding the bottle to the sun, Lily shook it. Something clinked inside, but she couldn’t see what. She tried the cap and was surprised it unscrewed easily.
A silver necklace poured into her hand and glittered.  At the end of a delicate chain, a heart shaped pendant hung, engraved with the words, “Be My Friend.”  Lily put the necklace on and shook the bottle again, expecting to find a note so she could learn whose friend she was invited to be. No note fell out.
            Lily sat on the beach for a long time, thinking. She decided what she had to do.
            Lily dragged a huge red umbrella to the top of a grassy hill. She popped the umbrella open and felt the wind tug it. “North!” she whispered and held on to the umbrella handle with both hands.
           Slowly the wind lifted her and Lily floated over farms and  villages, wide rivers and green valleys.  A sassy crow kept her company for a little while, hitching a ride on the top of the umbrella.
Lily landed gently in a meadow. “This must be it,” she thought, noticing a dirt path leading through the nearby woods.
            Signs were posted on trees along the path.  “Go home!” 
            “Turn back now!”
            “No welcome mat here!”
            “Hmmm,” Lily thought. “With all these signs, it’s no wonder he or she has no friends.”
            Lily rounded a curve to find a cabin, its windows shuttered. Another sign, painted in red hung on the door. “Nobody’s home. Really.”
            Lily banged on the door. “I’m here to be your friend!”
            No one answered, but Lily could hear footsteps inside.
            Lily banged louder. “I came a long way to see you,” she yelled. She peeked under the door and glimpsed feet.
            “I found the bottle and the necklace you put inside.”
            Lily heard a quiet, “You did?”
            “Uh huh. I’m wearing the necklace. But you’ll have to open the door to see.”
            Silence. Then, “Come back some other day. I’m busy.”
           Lily was hungry and thirsty after her long trip. She wanted to sit in a nice soft chair for a little while. “You don’t know how to be a friend!” she yelled. “That’s why you don’t have any.” She started to cry.
            The door unlatched and slowly opened. “Would you like to come in and sit down?”
Lily saw a girl who looked exactly like herself. The same black hair, the same sea green eyes, the same dimple on one side. “Hello Lily, “ the girl said. “That’s my name, too. But I use my middle name, Marie. I like that name better.”
The inside of the cabin was a bit messy, but comfortable. Art hung on all the walls.  Poems were scattered across the table. The girls sat and talked.
“I journeyed a long way to find you,” Lily said.
“And I have been waiting all my life for you to find me,” answered Marie.
The girls talked deep into the night, getting to know each other better. “How talented you are,” Lily commented, looking at all of the paintings and reading the poems.
“And you are brave,” Marie told Lily. “You had no idea who or what was waiting at the end of  your journey.”
            As they talked, they realized they would never be separated again. They were happy to have found each other and would be best friends forever.
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Copyright 2019 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be shared, copied or distributed without permission from the author.
Published May 25, 2019 Biddeford Journal Tribune (Biddeford, ME)


Monday, May 27, 2019

Naming the Stray

Naming the Stray
                                                            By Valerie L. Egar

           Timid and scared, the brown and black dog ran through the village, rooting in garbage and drinking water from the river. People assumed an owner too lazy to take him to a shelter dumped him in the nearby park. He ran too fast and was too wily for anyone to get a good look, but a quick glance showed he was big, about 50 pounds, a shepherd-collie mix. The twisty tail suggested a smidgen of husky or elkhound added in.
            A group of young boys decided to catch him. “Here boy, c’mon.”  Offered food, the dog, shy as a deer, hesitated and decided it was too dangerous. Off he ran. For two weeks, the dog eluded people trying to help him. He grew thinner. He began to limp, most likely from being nicked by a car when he crossed the highway. The boys were persistent. One day, circling him with their bicycles, they managed to capture him. Now what to do?
My son, Leo Egar, was a veterinary student at the University of Pennsylvania at the time.  “We’ll give him to Leo,” the boys decided. “He’ll know what to do.” Meanwhile, because of the dog’s large ears, the tips of which flopped down, and the dirt he’d collected in his fur after two weeks of running, the boys named him “Mud Flap.”

 Mud Flap quickly secreted himself behind a wall of boxes in a storage room in our house and came out to eat and drink only when he was alone. Quiet and still, no one would ever think there was a large dog hiding in the room. He liked our other dogs, though, a German Shepherd, named Veronica and a husky, named Keeka. We’d pet Veronica and say, “Good girl, what a nice dog!” and slowly, Mud Flap would emerge from his hiding place to be pet, too. Being around the other dogs helped him overcome his shyness.
Despite his large size, we soon learned Mud Flap was still a puppy. His large  half-floppy ears began to stand straight up, like a shepherd’s. He wasn’t yet house-broken. He chewed things. Everything. The handle on the hammer.  One shoe from every pair I owned. The cord off the vacuum— three times. In the day when cell phones were as large as a telephone receiver and had antennas, he fished the phone out of my purse, undid the Velcro tab on the case, extended the antenna with his teeth and chewed it off.
He had a knack for carrying things, which usually coincided with his desire to chew them. Liter of water? No problem, he bit onto the cap, carried it to his bed and gnawed on the bottle, piercing the plastic and spilling the water all over.  He delicately removed a frying pan left in the kitchen sink, lifting it by the handle.  His biggest find was a long steel bar with curved ends and a lock called “The Club”, used to prevent auto theft. I’d grown tired of wrangling it onto the steering wheel and stashed it on a lower shelf in the utility room. He spotted it, pulled it out and carried it around, the biggest bone ever.
Though the first thought was to place Mud Flap in a good home, he soon endeared himself to the household.  We decided to rename him and keep him. “Chewy” might have worked, but I hoped he would soon limit his prodigious chewing to bones and nylon dog toys. Dennis? His good-natured mischief reminded me of the cartoon character Dennis the Menace, but somehow, the name didn’t quite fit.  He lacked menace— in his world, there was only curiosity and fun.
One morning, the lanky adolescent dog came bounding through the kitchen, the fabric remains of a recently gutted frog squeaky toy hanging from his mouth. He was moving so fast, he had no traction on the linoleum floor, and for a few brief moments, he galloped, without moving forward. We started to laugh and realized how much we’d laughed since he arrived.  The word ‘snicker’ came to mind and we tried it out. Snicker. The name was just right.

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Copyright 2017 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied, reproduced or distributed without permission from the author.


Monday, May 20, 2019

Max Gets A Bath

Max Gets a Bath
          By Valerie L. Egar

            Robbie and Amy overheard Mom talking to Dad.  “The only thing I still need to do is give Max a bath.” Max was the family’s chocolate lab. He hadn’t had a bath all winter because it was too cold.
            “That will be a handful,” said Dad. Though Max loved plowing through puddles, running in the rain and swimming in the near-by lake, Max hated baths.
            Mom sighed. “I know, I’m dreading it. I guess I’ll do it first thing tomorrow.”
            Robbie and Amy decided to surprise Mom by giving Max a bath when she and Dad were outside in the garden. How hard could it be?
    Robbie ran warm water in the tub.
    “Where’s Max?” Amy asked.
             Robbie and Amy looked on his dog bed. No Max.
             They looked under the kitchen table, where he liked to lie when they ate. No Max.
             They searched every room in the house.
            “I found him!” Amy yelled.  Robbie ran upstairs.  Max was hiding his head under Robbie’s bed, but the rest of his body didn’t fit.
            “We see you,” Robbie said.
            Max thumped his tail.
            “Doggie biscuit,” Amy said.
            Max squeezed out and Amy gave him a Beefy Bone. Max crunched and wagged his tail.
            Amy held another in front of Max and walked into the bathroom.
             Max got as far as the doorway and stopped. Baths happened in bathrooms and he could smell water in the tub and shampoo.
            “Come on, Max,” Amy said. “Mmm, Beefy Bone.”  Max stepped forward. Beefy Bones were delicious!
            Robbie clicked the door shut as Amy handed the bone to Max. 
   “Come on boy, jump in the tub!” Max sat.
            Amy tugged on Max’s collar and urged him to jump in.
            Max stretched out on the floor and rolled over.
            “Look, water!” Robbie said. He tried to sound excited.
            Max stood. Amy pulled his collar and Robbie pushed from the rear. Max jumped into the tub with a big splash.
            Robbie lathered Max’s neck first, taking care not to get soap on his face or in his eyes. Amy soaped his back and his long tail.
            “Doesn’t that feel good?” Amy said. Max wagged his tail throwing suds against the wall.
             All of a sudden, Max decided he’d had enough.  With one leap, he jumped out of the tub and shook, exploding water and soap everywhere.
    “You haven’t rinsed off yet!”  Robbie and Amy tried to get him back into the tub, but Max resisted.  He’d had enough of bath time.
“Maybe we can wipe the soap off,” said Robbie.  Amy wet few towels and they rubbed the soap off Max. Then, Amy grabbed more towels and they started to dry him. Max thought it was a game. He shook again and again until the bathroom floor was soaked.  Robbie and Amy were soaked, too.
“Maybe we should take him someplace else to dry,” said Robbie. He opened the bathroom door.
            Max flew out, leaving a trail of wet paw prints down the stairs and into the kitchen.  Robbie and Amy ran after him leaving a trail of wet shoeprints.
            Robbie took four rolls of paper towels out of the cabinet and they finished drying Max.  Then, Amy took another roll of towels and she and Robbie dried themselves off.
            “Mom is really going to be surprised,” said Amy.
“She sure is,” said Robbie.

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Copyright 2016 by Valerie L. Egar. May not be copied, reproduced or distributed without permission from the author.